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5 Amazing places to visit in Türkiye, according to an American

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People love asking travel writers like me for recommendations on where to go. It makes sense. In the last 18 months alone, I’ve touched down on all seven continents. But don’t ask me about Türkiye if you’re in a hurry. Despite being a broke 25-year-old when I first visited 10 years ago, I will sing the destination’s praises until I lose my voice. Whether you’re looking for budget-friendly fun or a five-star sojourn (which I’m all about these days), Türkiye has it all. And thanks to new nonstop flights from Detroit to Istanbul, it’s never been more accessible. Ideally, you can take a month off to criss-cross the country. But if you only have a week, or two, below is where I’d begin. 

Istanbul

It’s hard not to fall head over heels for this seaside city that straddles two continents and was once the capital of three iconic empires. The locals are sincere, and even the street cats seem like they’re on holiday. Plus everything – from sipping your morning tea (served in a clear glass so you can enjoy the color) to bathing in an underground Turkish hammam – is an inviting experience. I learned the art of the barter in the bustling Grand Bazaar, took in 180-degree views of the Bosphorus from the Galata Tower, and house hunted in the effortlessly hip neighborhood of Karaköy because I wanted to move there so badly after just two nights. Despite being Catholic, I can’t deny that the Hagia Sophia is the most stunning house of worship I’ve ever stepped foot in. 

Pro tip: Wear socks; shoes aren’t allowed in mosques. 

Bodrum (GoTürkiye)

Bodrum

A coastal city of contrasts, Bodrum is where the traditional wooden gulet I was on for an 8-night Sun Fun You cruise docked next to a multi-million dollar fiberglass yacht. This port city along the boasts Yalıkavak Marina, one of Europe’s finest marinas where you can shop in Dior and dine at Zuma. But it’s also home to the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While exploring on foot – everywhere in the old town is walkable – I saw remnants of Bodrum’s previous life as a quiet fishing village. In the evenings, however, I drank and danced my way up Bar Street, a mile-long strip specializing in nightlife. And forget FOMO. Thanks to the laidback Turkaegean way of life, I was fully present and even the mundane moments felt magical.

Pro tip: Don’t miss the “Anatolia show”, where martial arts meet acrobats, at the city’s oldest club, Halikarnas. 

Aerial view of hot air balloons, Göreme, Cappadocia, Türkiye. (GoTürkiye)

Cappadocia

Cappadocia is more than the hot air balloon capital of the world. It’s rich in history (take a tour of Derinkuyu, a subterranean city dating back to the 7th century BCE, or explore Göreme’s mysterious cave churches) and chock full of geographic formations. From whimsical 100-foot-tall fairy chimneys to a snow-covered 12,851-foot-tall inactive volcano, this part of Central ​​Türkiye is made for the ‘gram. Here, it’s all about perspective, hence the hundreds of hot air balloon safaris that launch daily. Still, many think this magical landscape is best enjoyed on horseback. And don’t forget to embrace your inner sommelier and sample the region’s fine wines. Cappadocia’s fertile soil produces the rare Emir grape, among other renowned varieties. 

Pro tip: Make your own ceramic souvenir at Avanos Pottery Workshop or shop for a hand-woven rug in Cappadocia’s colorful bazaars. 

Türkiye’s iconic Sümela Monastery. (GoTürkiye)

Trabzon

A former Silk Road hub hugging the Black Sea and surrounded by mountains, Trabzon appeals to my inner adrenaline junkie. My bucket list includes paragliding over Uzungöl Lake, a popular alpine escape for adventurers, laying first tracks at Zigana Ski Centre, one of more than 40 ski resorts in the country, and hiking to the Sumela Monastery, a Greek Orthodox engineering marvel dating back to the 4th century CE. It’s carved out of a cliff and on clear days, offers breathtaking views of the always verdant Altindere Valley National Park below. Of course, no trip to Trabzon is complete without refueling with Akçaabat köftesi (fried meatballs). 

Pro tip: If you’re not claustrophobic, go spelunking at Cal Cave, the self-proclaimed second-longest cave system in the world. 

Aerial view of Porto Ceneviz Bay, Antalya, Türkiye. (GoTürkiye)

Antalya

The beating heart of the Turkish Riviera is blessed with 231 Blue Flag Beaches. For comparison, the U.S. has just two. But there’s so much more to this resort-filled region than world-class sand and surf. Just 55 miles north of the city, a crystal clear river meanders through Köprülü Canyon National Park – a natural playground for rafters, campers, and hikers. Closer to town, the dramatic Duden Waterfalls are a popular place to picnic. The Lower Falls even cascade over a cliff into the sea. Antalya, with its Roman, Ottoman Turkish, Seljuk Turkish, and Eastern Roman influences, doesn’t disappoint in the culture department either. Its 2,000-year-old Aspendos – the best preserved theater from the ancient world – still hosts concerts, operas, and ballets. And Kaleiçi, Antalya’s old town, is a living, open-air museum. 

Pro tip: Embrace your inner emperor and enter Kaleiçi through the triple-arched Hadrian’s Gate, built specifically for the Roman ruler’s visit in 130 CE. 

Katie Jackson is a freelance travel writer. When she’s not working, she’s chasing after a Leonberger named Wilco.

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